It’s Settled: Wildman Will Go On

By Nathan Grayson on January 23rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

And it will get diabolical tree spiders. Hooray on all fronts!

“Will it ever actually come out, though?” is a question that’s often asked of many Kickstarter-funded games, but not like this. In the blink of an eye, Gas Powered Games’ Wildman went from fossil-fueled hopeful to dinosaur with a very large meteor breathing down its neck. After 40-some-odd layoffs, Chris Taylor was left reconsidering if it was even worthwhile to gamble the rest of his company on the project at all. So he asked the community. And now, after a few days of deliberation, it’s time for a verdict.

You can find the (strangely non-embeddable) video over on Wildman’s Kickstarter page, but here’s the gist straight from Chris Taylor:

“This weekend was an incredible experience for me. After what happened [with the layoffs on] Friday, I went through… it was just emotions, it was sadness. But the reality is that we did what we thought was right, and over time I think this will become more obvious to us… I’m optimistic, but at the same time, I know we’ve got a long road ahead of us.”

Meanwhile, he took to Eurogamer to shed more light on where exactly everything broke down and why Gas Powered Games is currently running on fumes. In short, a whole bunch of small bad news bits added up to become one very, very big avalanche. ”There’s multiple games that we got almost to the finish line on,” he explained. ”We got a phone call from the publisher and they said, ‘We’re terminating.’ And we’re like, ‘Yeah but we’re only a month away from beta!’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah we’re still terminating.’”

Which, understandably, left Taylor and co against the ropes and gasping for air. But, in spite of it all, he does believe the company can recover. In a Reddit AMA, he explained that some employees have already been rehired and – if nothing else – all the publicity will ensure the others find new jobs in short order instead of languishing in the unemployment line.

For the time being, though, GPG’s pushing ever onward, which – in the short term – apparently means we’ll soon get a glimpse of what could be the wildest man of all: animals? Project Mercury. And beyond that? Well, the Kickstarter’s basically doubled its total since it nearly screeched to a halt, so that’s a somewhat hopeful sign. Granted, $300,000′s still quite far from $1,100,000, and I imagine a number of recent contributors were drawn in by all the drama. Given that Wildman languidly meandered out the gate in the same way people do when they’re texting while crossing absurdly traffic-packed streets, I’m not entirely sure it can sustain the momentum.

Only time will tell, though. Are you thinking about lending Gas Powered Games a hand? And, if so, are you doing it for the game, or because you appreciate/feel bad for the company?

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42 Comments »

  1. Sebmono says:

    I would only do it for the game (as Taylor himself stated we all should), not the company, but have not pulled the trigger. I’m just all RTSed out at this point, doesn’t hold any innovation for me. Sounds too similar to a human-centrist Spore. Man-Spore?

  2. Squirly says:

    So they didn’t take the money from the kickstarter and make a run for the border? Missed opportunity!

    • reggiep says:

      The way kickstarter works is that if you don’t hit the goal, you don’t get any of the money.

  3. reggiep says:

    I wish them the best of luck, but I don’t wish to contribute any money to this project. I think the kickstarter goal is far too lofty. It makes me think my contribution would be squandered. Not to mention the game itself doesn’t seem to differentiate itself enough from Torchlight, which is already available for $20 or less.

  4. plugmonkey says:

    I said before all this redundancy business broke that I was close to being hooked, and I still am.

    It’s looking like an entire game based around the bits in Total Annihilation where you went on the all out attack with your Commander, which sounds cool. Plus I quite like the way the tech acquisition system is described.

  5. Teovald says:

    I backed the game before all this drama. For the moment I am not regretting it (I can cancel it anytime before the end of the campaign).
    “support an interesting & doable concept” turned into “support a great company”, I am fine with it atm.

  6. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Giant spiders seem like such a lazy design in many games, but especially this one. There are so many prehistorical animals they could have chosen instead.

    • DaftPunk says:

      This is still not final men,they’re just showing us how game might look..jeez.

      • misterT0AST says:

        It’s not a matter of “polish”, it’s a simple matter of concept: choose a prehistoric animal that isn’t a common enemy in every single game ever made to show off how original your project is, especially in the beginning.
        It does show a lack of creativity.

        • Puppy says:

          Yes.

          Any opportunity to show dinosaurs should not be squandered.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          I hate to pile on, but must agree. There are so many weird and wonderful megafauna that would turn up with a little research, but instead we get… The same rock elemental seen in like 20 other games, and some very familiar looking crab/spider things. While it’s not a game breaker, it certainly doesn’t do anything to get me excited for the project’s vision.

          That said, on some level it’s not really something I blame these guys for. Game development culture is so conservative that we see the same themes and mechanics all too often; right down to nearly identical enemies.

  7. trjp says:

    The big issue is that he cannot make the game he’s describing with the money he’s asking for – it’s not remotely possible.

    $1.1M sounds like a lot but in terms of a ‘studio’ game it’s pennies – even a small studio would consume that money in a few months at most – it’s a budget for maybe a 3/4-man team to make a game – maybe.

    If he already has a large amount of the game done then perhaps he can finish it in that sort of way – maybe – but it’s still nowhere near obvious if that’s the case and there are other factors such as getting the right people (who he appears to have paid-off) back and so on.

    I think the reason I remain fascinated by games after 30-odd years is that they’re an amazing fusion of art, code and inspiration – but it’s that part of them that also makes them so hard to get right – and so expensive to do (and why small teams simply get much more value/hour spent)

    • plugmonkey says:

      $1.1m to fund a 3/4 man team for a year?

      Can I come and work for you?

      I would’ve thought a 20 to 25 man team would be more likely on that budget. Even 25 heads would be $36k each in salary with $200k left over for running costs.

      • Low Life says:

        Who the hell works in game development for $36k a year?

        http://www.ign.com/articles/2012/04/03/how-much-do-game-developers-make

        Then we have the fact that there are so many costs other than salary that your $200k wouldn’t be even close to enough:
        http://web.mit.edu/e-club/hadzima/how-much-does-an-employee-cost.html

        • plugmonkey says:

          Wow, those look WAY high, based on my experience. I wonder how they source those? If that’s the mean, it’s nowhere close to the mode or median.

          Anyway, a year older but from the same source:

          “Developers that identified themselves as independent made an average of $26,780 last year,”

          Kickstarter should be about covering costs so that you can sell your game, not paying everyone grandiose $80k salaries. Who works for $36k? I would, if I’m also on a performance related bonus from the back end once the sales start coming in.

          And that was the top end estimate. 20 people at $45k? Who works for $45k? Millions of people. Plus $10k per head running costs. It’s not unimaginable. A lot closer than $275k per head.

          Edit: The average game industry salary for testing staff is $48,000? Shenanigans!

          • Low Life says:

            Here’s some more info:
            http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1108/game_developer_salary_survey_2012.php?print=1

            It also notes that even the average indie developer now makes $38k per year. Of course these are all averages so that’s always going to skew the results one way or another – are the indie developers all full time developers or does this include students etc., then there are people like Notch who probably make a shitload of money. So more comprehensive statistics would be nice.

            I do agree that 3-4 people is way too little for that amount of money, I’d place my own estimate somewhere around 10-15. But then again, I’m not running a game development company..

          • plugmonkey says:

            Hmm, I was going to suggest that’s getting very heavily skewed towards the cream of the industry.

            Email invitations were sent to Game Developer subscribers, Game Developers Conference attendees, and Gamasutra.com members asking them to participate in the survey.

            Your average worker drones don’t have Game Developer subscriptions. They certainly don’t attend GDCs! Those things are pretty expensive, so companies only send their best and their brightest. That’s a terrible way to compile a sample population. The ‘normal’ folk are only ever going to get in from being Gamasutra members, and then they’re going to be outnumbered.

            But then I saw the European figures, and noticed that American game developers apparently just get paid nearly twice as much as European games developers, the numbers for which are much closer to my estimates.

            Is that really true? If so, you would think studios would be moving a lot more development over here.

            Are they compiling the American population from GDC attendees, and the European figures solely from Gamasutra members? If so, I would suggest that accounts for the difference. My anecdotal evidence is that UK developers generally get paid slightly more than their American counterparts – owing to a relatively strong pound and higher cost of living – not half as much.

          • ScatheZombie says:

            At a AAA developer like Gas Powered Games, I started at 45k as an associate, we had senior/lead developers upwards of 120k.

            Our QA also made between 30k-55k as well, depending on seniority and title.

            These figures are pretty standard in the area I work as well, there’s an EA studio across the street and they pay roughly the same for developers and QA.

            The Game Developer’s Salary Survey is actually pretty accurate for mainstream game companies. In fact, a lot of developers use that average to barter for higher pay, especially people below or at the average. You’ll see sharp declines in pay when you go into unknown third party and indie development because they sometimes don’t work or get paid for months on end.

            $1.1 million dollars for a AAA quality RTS is nowhere near enough for development from start to finish. Realistically, you’d be looking at a *minimum* of $10 million. However, if they’ve already got a bunch of licenses paid for, tools and engine built, and a small team (less than the 40 people he laid off) … $1.1 million *might* get you 6 months of development time for maybe 12-15 devs. There are a lot of hidden costs that most people don’t realize. Insurance is a HUGE one – both medical and corporate. Advertising as well. Legal fees. Building rent. Utilities. Hardware. Software licenses. It adds up, very quickly. Salary isn’t the only expense. In fact, it’s probably a little less than half of the total cost of running a team.

          • malkav11 says:

            I am not in game development, but I make about $38k a year and I will tell you that that only allows me discretionary spending because I am a single adult with no debt, no major expenses aside from rent, utilities and food, and no car. If I had children, owned a car, owned property, had student loans, etc, I would be just barely scraping by, and I don’t live in a particularly costly part of the United States (Saint Paul, which appears to be right about average on cost of living indexes). A significant amount of the gaming industry is located in California, which has a much higher cost of living. GPG itself is in Redmond, WA, which appears to be anywhere from 20-50% higher than US average depending on which index you consult. 36k a year seems pretty unrealistic.

          • plugmonkey says:

            Wow. Us European developers are getting screwed then. And I remain surprised the big devs don’t move more development over here. It’s not like we’re no good at it, and you can get away with a 40-45% salary cut across the board.

            Anyway, on a side note, GPG have said somewhere that Wildman is most definitely NOT a AAA RTS, which they also say would cost around $10m. That was Kings and Castles, which was the “bigger is not better” game that they’ve put permanently on hold.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Keep in mind that Bastion was made by 7 people in one and a half years (probably less than that once office setup time is factored in), and this is a group experienced in the genre they’re making and working together.

          A RTS would require more work, but if you were paying $62.5k a year for developers you could get 17.6 man-years out of the $1.1m. The fixed costs of rent and internet are far smaller than the fixed costs for equipment.

  8. Rao Dao Zao says:

    Surely if they’ve got several almost-complete games that have been dropped, they could kickstart for small amounts to just finish them off and then start selling them? Most be some revenue to be had there rather than letting it all go down the drain, and less risky than going all-in on something totally new.

    Then they can stick their tongues out at the dafties that pulled out and go “nyah nyah, they were profitable after all!”

    … Unless they were MMOs.

    • Low Life says:

      They likely don’t own any of the stuff they’ve been making, all the rights belong to the publisher.

  9. Syra says:

    frankly the whole thing smells a bit like a publicity stunt to me.

  10. StingingVelvet says:

    The prevailing reaction to this whole kickstarter and game seems to be “who gives a shit,” which is something I think they need to look closely at. Too late for a redesign obviously but they might want to adjust the plan as much as they can.

  11. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I would consider contributing to this project if I knew of anyone that was summarily fired did exactly that. But, despite Chris Taylor crocodile tears, I doubt those that were fired felt it was really that necessary.

    • Grygus says:

      He fired them while he could still pay severance without bankrupting the company. So no, it wasn’t necessary in the sense that he wasn’t completely broke, but yes it was necessary in the sense that he doesn’t see an income stream starting anytime soon, so if he didn’t fire them, the money was going to run out and they’d end up fired in six months, only with no severance and with the company in debt. He handled it like a businessman instead of like a game developer in over his head; that’s probably what’s confusing you.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I don’t know; I think some of the businessmen take the “get the scrubs to work for you for a few more months before they realize none of the paychecks are clearing or are ever going to clear” option too.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Then ten years later they start an internet donation bin to resurrect Black Isle.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Nothing about this is confusing (I do find your businessmen analogy entertaining though).

        In any case, as far as I’m concerned, I won’t back up a company project if it just sent a whole bunch of people to the unemployment line. Simple.

        • Screen Blind says:

          Damn straight. That’s why I pulled my pledge back out less than 24 hours after I’d made it.

          It sounds to me like they either: A) Don’t know what they’re doing – which means they can’t have my money for a kickstarter, or B) They’re not being entirely honest with themselves or with us – which means they can’t have my money for a kickstarter.

          I’ll think again about buying the game once its actually finished and published – other than that I’m tired of the bullshit circus. It’s just souring the platform for genuine indie blaggers :)

          • plugmonkey says:

            Or C) Had some other projects fall through.

            Which is what they said happened.

            The whole idea of pulling support because they’ve lost another contract sounds pretty revolting to me.

  12. karthink says:

    Choice words from Chris Taylor from his Reddit AMA that you might find relevant:

    “Second, I’m really not happy that too many people are pledging not because they like the game, but because they feel sorry for us. That’s not what making games is about!! I feel terrible about that. I want people to support it because they like the idea. Otherwise it’s not a true process. If it’s the wrong game at the wrong time, then we need to be sent packing.”

    “What’s weird, is that I think GPG would have truly been dead if I hadn’t laid off the team, but of course there was no way for me to know what would happen. some have said that it was an elaborate scheme to manipulate people… I’m like, wow, you’ve got to be kidding me… anyone who could pull that off has much bigger balls than me. I am still shocked that anyone could even think that, especially people who know me… and I’ve been in the business 25 years, I’ve got a reputation, and I’ve never, ever, been known to pull that kind of shit.”

    source

    • Tasloi says:

      I’m glad he made that first quote. It had to be said. Also since we’re on the topic of game concepts, i’ve always secretly hoped for a GPG-made basic SP/MP skirmish space RTS. A throwback to Conquest: Frontier Wars or ST: Armada but on SupCom scale. Someone make it happen!

  13. jrodman says:

    This does not, to my mind, look like a company-betting concept.
    Good luck to them, but I don’t see it ending that well.

  14. iridescence says:

    If he wants desperation money to save his company he should go to the bank and ask for a loan like anyone else would do. Whether he admits it or not, I do sense that he’s hoping people will back this Kickstarter just to stop people from being laid off. While I feel sorry for the employees involved, this whole campaign leaves a very bad taste in my mouth and would also be dubious that the game will even come out. No thanks…

    • P.Funk says:

      Sometimes I can’t believe how weird people’s views of things are. Its like the most puritanical immaculate vision of how things work.

      I don’t suppose anybody actually remembers Its a Wonderful Life anymore do they.

      • jrodman says:

        Well… It’s not like It’s a Wonderful Life is any more realistic than the idea of a severely underwater company saving itself by asking banks for loans.

      • iridescence says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I totally applaud people’s generosity but I see a guy who must’ve known the situation his company was in before kickstarting and instead of waiting to deal with the issues he went ahead and left the Kickstarter going for a week allowing him to generate alot of press and sympathy. If he had started right from the beginning with “give us money to save our company” that would’ve been honest. Instead, it reminds me of those African charity commercials that show you pictures of starving children and make you feel guilty if you don’t donate.

        I hope I’m wrong and the game will come out in an awesome form and the company will be saved but the way he has gone about this is still sleazy and borderline dishonest.,

        Also, if you don’t care about the game and just want to donate to charity. There are many people who need it more than some game developer, just saying.

  15. MeestaNob says:

    The ongoing comment section idiocy around this issue is astounding.

    GPG HAD to let those people go asap while there was still money available to pay them what they were due. If they didn’t go now then the staff would have been up shit(tier) creek financially.

    GPG make decent to excellent games, and it sounds like they did the best they could for their staff in the time they had left before it all imploded.

    Pledged. And if the Kickstarter succeeds but the game doesn’t get made into a workable state before they go broke, then so be it. It’s TWENTY DOLLARS. In this instance, the meagre sum means a lot more to that company than it does to the individuals backing it.